Stairway to Heaven

Lehrer Architects plans a vertical mausoleum for the Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Rendering of Gower Mausoleum along Gower Street. (Courtesy Lehrer Architects)

The Hollywood Forever Cemetery is an unconventional tourist destination: not only is it the burial site of stars including Judy Garland, Charlie Chaplin, and Dee Dee Ramone, but it also hosts a series of outdoor movie screenings and musical performances, making it one of the city’s most popular entertainment venues. The cemetery’s renown has made attendance as competitive for the dead as for the living, necessitating a vertical expansion in the form of a five-story mausoleum.

Local firm Lehrer Architects was hired to develop the Gower Court Mausoleum, which is designed, according to the firm, to “serve as a landmark for visitors and neighbors.” As the tallest building on the property at 97 feet, Lehrer Architects designed the mausoleum to stand out without drawing too much focus away from the surrounding greenery. The facade along Gower Street will feature boxy marble geometry softened by potted trees and hanging shrubs, as well as an entranceway that extends the pedestrian path along Eleanor Avenue into the landscaped grounds. The mausoleum will add an additional 30,584 crypts (each of which will start at $7,700), cremation niches enveloped with hanging gardens and an open-air chapel tucked inside an arbor on the building’s rooftop terrace.

Vertical diagram of a five-story building

Section of Gower Mausoleum. (Courtesy of Lehrer Architects)

The most current design for the mausoleum was unanimously approved by the Los Angeles City Planning Commission, the neighborhood council and its planning committee, according to the firm, for “the encouragement of open space and parks and the promotion of the preservation of views, natural character, and topography of mountainous parts of the community for the enjoyment of both local residents and persons throughout the region.”

The project will be completed in two phases, the first of which will have room for 10,680 crypts, followed by the second phase, which will add an additional 19,072. Given that the project will significantly increase the attendance of Hollywood Forever Cemetery, the city council’s approval was dependent upon the addition of 107 parking spaces as well as several street improvements along neighboring streets, including Santa Monica Boulevard, Van Ness Avenue and Gower Street. Those hoping to reserve a spot in Gower Court Mausoleum would be advised to not hold their breath; the project isn’t expected to be complete for another ten to fifteen years.

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